Why Transportation Security Devices are Critical

Transportation security is critical to the overall supply chain. By using security devices, end users can be confident that the goods they acquire have not been tampered with and are safe and reliable for consumption or use. Those businesses that manage cold chain transportation find security important not only for food safety reasons, but to maintain food quality. Nevertheless, bad actors continue to commit theft, sabotage shipments or be involved in terrorism. “While we would like to think that these are new problems, they are not,” remarks Robert H. Fay, President of Florida Freezer and Chairman of the International Refrigerated Transportation Association (IRTA). “Cybercrime issues are a new manifestation of the same problem, but the root cause is the same. There are bad people in the world, and the good people need to protect themselves with security measures.” 


Consequently, shippers, receivers, loaders, and carriers have been utilizing security devices such as sealing and locks, GPS tracking and routes, and possibly temperature control and tracking, to protect against these bad people. But ever since the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finalized the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rule in 2016 on Sanitary Transport of Human and Animal Food (STF), regulations have been introduced by which all parties throughout the cold supply chain must adhere. “While most of these practices were already in place prior to FSMA, the new regulation required better documentation of the process,” comments Keith Mowery, Vice President of Transportation and Logistics at United States Cold Storage, Inc. Training of carrier personnel in sanitary transportation practices and documentation is a key requirement of the rule. In response, IRTA developed a training program to help temperature-controlled truck drivers meet these compliance requirements. "With information being more readily available in terms of data, both from a security and quality perspective, manufacturers and consumers want to ensure that their product is safe and protected throughout the shipping pro-cess,” Mowery says. “Technology is advancing so quickly in this space that the data is available in real time. It’s just a question of how much information is needed, and what is the cost to receive and maintain that information.”


Security Device Basics
Most receivers will not accept deliveries that are not properly secured. For one, they deter crime, and as Fay adds, “There’s the CYA factor.” “The upside [to utilizing them],” says
Mowery, “is you are able to be assured of product integrity and quality and are able to make better decisions about what do as more information is available. The downside is
that with more data received, there is a better chance that data may be taken out of context and good product destroyed without proper research being done.” For example, a receiver may keep a door of a trailer open for an extended period in 100-degree heat, which could cause the air temperature to exceed a certain threshold. “That may not mean the temperature of the product exceeded the threshold, but some shippers may decide to discard product without properly investigating and filing a claim against the carrier,” Mowery says. “Someone needs to assure that proper investigation is still completed rather than just using this data without investigating. Without a proper investigation, they may not be at fault. Relationships can be damaged due to improper research and poor use of the data received.” Fay points to several reasons that necessitate the use of transportation security devices: 1) cold chain providers often deal with food/ pharma so the risk to human health is far greater should there be an event; 2) the value of the goods transported tends to be higher so there is value in stealing it, and hence a value in protecting it; 3) the value of the assets (capital investment) being tracked tends to be higher than the dry goods counterpart; and 4) there are benefits gained in fleet management that transcend security.


Worth Noting
A host of devices are available that provide transportation security. Seals and padlocks are standard, and GPS and temperature monitoring are becoming more widely used. But not all GPS and temp monitoring devices offer real-time monitoring. “Most temperature monitoring is after the fact with either a reefer or temp tale download,” Mowery states. “Newer equipment has the ability to monitor in real time and there are devices that can monitor and relay both GPS and temperature in real time, but for most shipments, they are too costly.” Devices have other downsides as well, such as costs associated with procuring and installing the devices on each load (seals and locks) and the ongoing expense (including man power) of maintaining systems such as GPS and temperature tracking. “Seals vary in price,” Fay adds. “The plastic ones I buy in fairly low quantities are about 50 cents each (printed with our name and sequential number). Good locks for trailers run about $20 each. Time to install on each trailer/railcar takes only a few moments, which over time adds to minutes and hours. Round number for me with my labor costs is $0.53/unit shipped (x2 for each unit received as we must cut them off and verify against paperwork). My GPS/E-Log Temp tracking system runs about $1,800 per month for 12 trucks and 18 refrigerated trailers.” Ultimately, he says, the risk/reward assessment of security is almost identical to that of
assessing insurance. “If you thought you have enough, you might not, and you are better having some coverage than not having any coverage,” Fay adds. “The challenge is determining how much security will prevent the crime, versus how much professional criminals/terrorists can get around virtually any system they want, no matter how much money we throw at the problem.”


Looking Forward
As technology in this space continues to develop at an increasing pace, Mowery maintains that soon, all shipments will have the ability to incorporate real time monitoring
of temperature and location at a relatively inexpensive price. “The challenge shippers or 3PL companies will face is taking the multiple sources of data and bringing them to
one centralized point so you can review this information quickly and manage by exception,” he says. Meanwhile, Fay recommends being constantly vigilant. “You cannot afford to be complaisant, as an industry or a society, when it comes to the protection of our transportation network, especially the food/pharma supply chain,” he says.